Miscellany was piled from one end of the huge room to the other, leaving only five or six narrow paths for the shoppers to amble along as they perused the patchwork of paraphernalia that was available for purchase. Karah’s eyes skimmed over the edges and corners as she traversed the room, one path after another.
Nearly halfway down the fourth path, a glint from something near the bottom of a pile caught her eye. Karah glanced around her, noting nobody was near, and she lowered herself and stretched into the milieu until she could reach the bit of indeterminable metal. As she drew it out of the pile, the shape of the thing confirmed what she’d suspected: it was a nifty little thingamabob with a variety of moving tabs and levers that tickled her fancy.
Carrying it carefully to the table near the exit which was set up with a coin box and a chip reader, she asked the surly attendant, “How much is this thing?”
Barely glancing at the device, he answered laconically, “Fifteen.”
“Works for me,” Karah replied, offering her minichip for payment.
The attendant flashed his chip reader wand at her and punched a button on the side. “Y’wanna receipt?” he muttered.
“No, thanks,” Karah responded. Her outfit had no pockets. Turning so fast toward the door that her skirt flared, she exited without delay. Stepping into the waiting transport, she dropped into the first open seat and began to inspect her treasure more closely.
As she turned it over, one of the levers switched to the other position with an audible “click.” A tiny light began to emanate from the interior of the device. She looked up quickly, but no other passenger showed any interest, so she waited a moment, then turned it again. This time, a knob popped out, standing at attention on a thin bar. A deep hum began, so low that she felt it rather than heard it.
The transport had pulled into a stop, and she noticed it was hers. Stepping off into the street, she began toward home under the twilight sky, still fidgeting with the odd device.
Suddenly, a hovercraft zoomed in to stop suddenly just ahead of her. As the upper hatch began to open, a vehicle squealed to a stop just behind. Unsure what to do, Karah’s instincts had kicked in, and she peeked up from her near-fetal position on the ground. The occupant of the hovercraft was wearing the uniform of the Northern Kingdom army, and the occupant of the other vehicle was obviously a general from the Capital’s army.
If she had known the device was going to cause an international war, she would have left it at the bottom of the pile.